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Socialismes en Afrique

Françoise Blum
Héloïse Kiriakou
Martin Mourre
et al.

Deuxième partie : socialismes en actes. 2 : pratiques esthétiques et propagande

The Bissau-Guinean Cinema: A Nation

Catarina Laranjeiro

Texte intégral

1In the context of the African liberation wars, different statesmen understood that cinema was a powerful instrument that played a crucial role into the construction of the memory of identity, which led to film becoming a key component in the struggles that shaped the end of colonialism. After independence, many of the new African states appropriated cinema as a symbolic expression of their political sovereignty. Theoretically, Guinea-Bissau was no exception. Based on an extensive interview with the Bissau-Guinean filmmaker Sana Na N’Hada, I aim to analyze the Guinean film production before and after independence through an exercise of contrasts with the national history it proposed to represent.

The Third Cinema Movement on liberation struggles

2In the 1960s and 1970s, a “cinematic boom” focused on the aesthetics and cultural policies of revolutionary processes spread through several African and South American countries and became known as the Third Cinema Movement. This cinematic approach arose against this backdrop to promote a critical reflection about the social and political inequalities as well as to activate a global revolutionary conscience through cinema.

3Striving to decolonize the producers’ gaze, to deconstruct colonial narratives and to subvert the western cinematographic tradition, the Third Cinema Movement imposed the inclusion of filmic language in the combat against colonialism. It sought another perspective about the countries of the so-called Third World, a perspective that was not formatted or impaired by colonial cinema and that refused colonial exoticism and alienation. Driven by urgency for political action, these films were produced in record time, with small budgets and few resources. This experimental way of doing cinema enabled the visibility of stories that were projected like combat weapons. It is pertinent to invoke Edgar Morin, for whom cinematography was developed along the lines of our psyche, which is the reason why the languages of psychology and of cinema coincide in various concepts: projection, representation, field, and image (Morin 1980: 186–187). It is not by chance that third-world cinematographic thought presents clear references to Frantz Fanon’s Black Skins, White Masks (2008), which was a pioneering thesis about the psychopathology of colonization.

4Third-world cinematographic ideology was consolidated in seminal texts by South American filmmakers, such as “The Aesthetics of Hunger” by Glauber Rocha, who defended that the artistic creative processes of the underdeveloped world were thus far only considered interesting to the extent that they satisfied the European spectator’s nostalgia for primitivism (Rocha 1997: 60).

5Equally highly important was the manifest “Towards a Third Cinema. Notes and experiments toward the development of a cinema of liberation in the third world” by the Argentinean filmmakers Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, for whom the cinematographic language operated through a neocolonial ideology. In this manifesto, they alerted readers to the fact that the Third Cinema would necessarily be of a revolutionary cinema.

The anti-imperialist struggle of the peoples of the Third World and of their equivalents inside the imperialist countries constitutes today the axis of the world revolution. Third cinema, is, in our opinion, the cinema that recognizes in that struggle the most gigantic cultural, scientific and artistic manifestation of our time, the great possibility of constructing a liberated personality with each people as the starting point—in a word, the decolonization of culture. (Solanas, Getino 1969: 116)

6If culture in a colonial/capitalist and alienated world is impaired and impairing, it becomes crucial to have a cinema of and for the revolution: “The camera then becomes a gun, and cinema must be a guerrilla cinema” (Solanas, Getino 1969: 107). The spectator should feel shot by the image and undergo a process of identification that would drive him or her to a social and political transformation (Gabriel 1982: 93).

7Finally, it is very important to note the work of Cuban filmmaker Santiago Álvarez, who documented widely anti-imperialist struggles by positing that “the urgency of the Third World, that creative impatience of the artist, will produce the art of this time, the art of the life of two thirds of the world’s population” (Álvarez 2006: 460). The Cuban contribution is noteworthy, for its revolution was apparent in its cinema as well—namely with the creation of the Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematographic Industry in 1959 (Instituto Cubano del Arte e Indústria Cinematografica, or ICAIC). ICAIC was meant to foster the creation of a generation of Cuban filmmakers who would make cinema a fundamental agent in the Cuban revolution.

8The most striking feature of this movement was its internationalist character. The voices of this movement were plural and emerged from different contexts. An example was the Pan-African Festival of Algiers (1969), a privileged meeting place for filmmakers, writers and artists. A political link between the recent memory of Algeria’s independence war, the struggle against neocolonialism on the African continent driven by the recent events in Congo, and the struggle and resistance of peoples still dominated by colonial regimes, such as Portuguese colonies, was established through this festival.

  • 1 The other films directed by foreign filmmakers are of European origin: Lala Quema (France, 1964) an (...)

9Meanwhile, in Guinea-Bissau, one of the most remarkable liberation struggles was taking place. Led by Amílcar Cabral, the liberation movement—the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC)—was considered a “revolutionary example” in the anticolonial arena. Amílcar Cabral’s diplomatic strategy, combined with successive military victories against the Portuguese colonial army, highlighted this struggle at the international level. For instance, Amílcar Cabral was one of the more praised nationalist African leaders in Havana Tricontinental and, while Fidel Castro’s government dedicated growing attention to various liberation movements, it particularly focused on the struggle led by Amílcar Cabral in Guinea-Bissau (Malitsky 2013: 200). It was in this context, that filmmakers engaged with the Third Cinema Movement of different origins that were connected to left wing political groups became involved in Guinean anticolonial struggle through filmmaking. Remarkably, one of the first films shot in Guinea-Bissau was Madina de Boé (1969) by Cuban director José Massip.1

10These films were made with the goal of converting Guinean men and women into makers of their own history. As such, they highlighted an emerging conscience, parted with the visual colonial codes and offered the international community a perspective different from the one shaped by the Portuguese government. These images became combat weapons in different diplomatic arenas, thereby contributing to the continued support of the international community for the struggle. Cinema was then one of the instruments that made possible this “African nation forged in the struggle” (Cabral 1974). At the same time, it also denounced the barbaric acts committed by the Portuguese Estado Novo regime’s colonialism.

11In the book O Fazedor the Utopias, António Tomás recognizes that it was necessary to put the events in writing so as to win the war. Who writes controls the historic narrative, and this was a war made through the writing of reports as well as announcements, memorandums, and letters exchanged among the various members of the party (Tomás, 2008: 42). However, this was also a war of images, symbols, and myths. There was a huge investment in the construction of the imagery of this struggle, and Cabral excelled in his role of protagonist.

12Images are objects that exert power and war is a space in which conflict arises in pursuit of power. It is important to highlight that the Estado Novo regime understood it was important to commission full reports and newspaper stories in order to convince the national and international public opinion of its role as defender of the free world against the communist enemy (Convents 2011: 329). As Afonso Ramos’ posits: “images were shield and sword: with them one would both strike the enemy and fend off his attacks” (Ramos 2014: 422). For instance, in a hearing with the African Subcommittee for the Representatives’ Chamber of Foreign Affairs, Amílcar Cabral showed pictures of Guinean citizens bearing wounds that resulted from American napalm bombs. Some delegates were moved by the pictures and reacted positively to Cabral’s demands (Tomás 2008: 254). Although the liberation struggle was a necessary result of historical circumstances and of a spiral of political violence, one should not lose sight of how war images contrasted with colonial images. Portraying men and women fighting to build a fair and ideal society, they affirmed a shared humanity with the guerrilla movement.

13Nonetheless, in the political context of the time, they were a canvas on which the aspirations of other countries were projected, such as Sweden, Cuba, and the Soviet Union, which supported the independence project and its cinema. For Ros Gray, the international ambition of the liberation struggles has an uneasy relationship with the European experience (2016: 40). It is important to keep in mind that the anticolonial movements were part and parcel of the class struggle’s history and, at times, were dissolved in the social mobilization seeking the final victory of the proletariat, that took place as socialist homogenization resulted in the exclusion of the bourgeois enemies of the revolution (Basto 2012: 102). Also, in this process, the international left movement that supported the anticolonial struggles did not problematize the ethnic-racial hierarchies established during the colonial expansion (Grosfoguel 2009: 410).

14Therefore, in spite of the high number of “revolution seeker” directors who were in Guinea-Bissau during this historic period, Cabral believed it to be necessary that Guineans be able to produce their own images so as to, symbolically, guarantee the independence in the representation realm as well as the possibility to build a filmic memory directed by Guineans themselves (Cunha 2013; Cunha, Laranjeiro 2017). For that reason, four young Guineans went to study cinema at ICAIC, in Cuba—José Columba Bolama, Josefina Crato, Flora Gomes, and Sana Na N’Hada. According to Sana Na N’Hada, this initiative stemmed from PAIGC’s leader himself.

[…] four people from that group dedicated themselves to agriculture and Amílcar Cabral said that Bolama and me would make movies. I remember that I said that the only images I had seen so far were pictures of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary in books, that I had never watched movies. And Cabral just laughed his head off. (Personal interview, May 2015)

15After returning from Cuba, these young Guineans were meant to document the armed struggle, both in its political and guerrilla settings. Based in Senegal, and under the orientation of filmmaker Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, these four Guineans started to record the political, diplomatic and guerrilla activities of the liberation struggle: “I usually say that cinema was created by us, Guineans, when we started filming […] we had stepped out of the war, gone to Cuba and were coming back to the war” (Sana Na N’Hada, personal interview, May 2015). However, there was no budget for such cinematographic work: “Because we were interns they would just give us bits of leftover film […] we didn’t use all the film at once, we would save it so as to go into “the bush” [war] to film” (Sana Na N’Hada, personal interview, May 2015). To film “in the bush,” two teams were formed according to guidelines which, once again, came directly from PAIGC’s leader. However, other difficulties arose from the war front:

Amílcar used to say we should film everyday life in the liberated areas, but war was complicated. He decided that two of us would go North and two of us would go South. But the military guys didn’t like we were there because they had to spare men for our escort. There were many suspicions over there, especially after Cabral's death. For the military, we were intruders […]. (Sana Na N’Hada, personal interview, May 2015)

16The difference between the position claimed by Cabral and the one held by local military authorities after his death is noteworthy. It collides with the descriptions of PAIGC leaders’ readiness in the liberated areas to welcome filmmakers made by Lennart Malmer and Tobias Engel in interviews granted to me in May 2015. Furthermore, it also counterposes the descriptions made by Lars Rudebeck (1974) and Stephanie Urdang (1979) about their stay in Guinea-Bissau during the war. If all foreign journalists and filmmakers were welcome in the battlefront, what would be the reason for the unease created by the Guinean cameras (or gaze)?

17Adding to this fact, images produced by Guinean filmmakers did not serve as means of internal propaganda for PAICG. This was because Guinea-Bissau did not have labs to develop film and, therefore, all the images were sent to various allied countries, which resulted in much material being lost (Cunha, Laranjeiro 2017).

[…] what we filmed no one would develop, they sent it to Conakry and we would never hear of its whereabouts again […] the material we filmed in the first three months was wall sent to Algeria […] a significant part of what we had filmed in Conakry ended up in the Soviet Union […]. Even the proclamation of independence, which we filmed, ended up in the Soviet Union. Some things that Flora shot in the South, by coincidence, were taken by Lennart Malmer, who happened to be there at that time, and are probably now in Guinea-Bissau’s cinema archive. (Sana Na N’Hada, personal interview, May 2015)

18In contrast, films produced by foreign filmmakers were widely broadcasted internationally, fulfilling their primary goal, which was to mobilize agents and international organizations, mainly the United Nations (UN), for the cause of the Guinean liberation struggle. Although the colonial war was still going on, and its charismatic leader was assassinated eight months earlier, on 24 September 1973, PAIGC unilaterally proclaimed independence.

19When in June 1974, Portugal recognized the country’s independence, PAIGC’s upper echelons inherited the structures of the existing colonial administration and adapted them. Cabral did not consider the hypothesis that Bissau could be the capital of the new independent nation—he advocated for an enlarged state structure that would encompass the liberated areas (Sousa 2012: 441). However, independence entailed social and economic emergencies that were extremely hard to solve and ultimately took precedence over the discourses defended during the struggle. In this context, according to Sana Na N’Hada, those who had trained to be agricultural technicians took positions in the Ministry of Agriculture, and those who had trained to be journalists took positions on National Radio. Nonetheless, the colonial administration had no cinema legacy to leave behind: “Our wage was the same as a servant’s. Our filmmaker’s wage did not correspond to any other function dating from the colonial period” (Sana Na N’Hada, personal interview, May 2015). Despite the National Council for Culture’s efforts to foster different cultural departments, like cinema, namely under the coordination of Angolan nationalist Mário Pinto de Andrade, there were no resources to enable their work. After the war was over, much of the international financial support ceased. Sana Na N’Hada’s pragmatic perspective on the matter is nevertheless curious:

  • 2 During the liberation struggle, Sara Moldoror also shot the film Des fusils pour Banta (1970). Howe (...)

When the war ended Sara Maldoror and Lennart Malmer told us: “You should request material now but ask for gear made recently. If you ask for stuff, someone will provide. Later it will be more difficult […] two or three years from now they won’t give out stuff anymore.” (Personal interview, May 2015)2

  • 3 Some of the images of Actualidades were shown as part of the collective Project Luta Ca Caba Inda ( (...)

20During the previously quoted interview, Na N’Hada mentioned repeatedly that filmmakers fought long and hard for an acknowledgment that never really came. He underlined that Lennart Malmer was the person who convinced Luís Cabral, Amílcar Cabral’s brother and president of Guinea-Bissau at the time, to create the necessary conditions for filmmaking in Guinea-Bissau. The first government of Guinea-Bissau was exclusively interested in the current affairs news programs—literally, Jornais de Atualidades. This kind of news programs consisted of moving images that were meant to be seen but not interpreted and, thereby, ultimately comprised a film genre that operated as a privileged instrument of ideological propaganda. Such programs were particularly popular in Cuba, which had Noticiero, and also in Mozambique, with Kuxa Kanena. Yet, even though PAIGC invested in the production of these news programs, they were never publicly broadcasted.3

Every time a foreign president would visit, namely an African president, we would record it. There were many rallies that we also filmed. We even went to Cape-Verde to get the ceremony of Independence on camera. […] I attended the handover of the Mansoa headquarters, which is in Lennart’s film. (Sana Na N’Hada, personal interview, May 2015)

21Actualidades did communicate the relevant political and cultural aspects of Guinea-Bissau’s government, following the guidelines given by the PAIGC leadership, albeit running on the few resources allocated by the Ministry of Information and Culture, then led by Manecas dos Santos. As image designers, the filmmakers had very little creative control. Jusciele Oliveira notes that they worked as reporters for the Ministry of Information and Culture between 1975 and 1977 (Oliveira 2016: 78). Hoping to have their role as filmmakers acknowledged, the aforementioned young group designed the Instituto Nacional de Cinema (National Institute for Cinema) so as to justify the allocation of a budget. They believed it was imperative to create a documental memory that was able to sustain an idea of national identity and, consequently, of a nation-state. Cinema was the instrument that would enable the continued consolidation of the national unity that had been sown during the struggle and was anchored in a revolutionary nationalism that would overcome ethnic differences.

22Once again, the influences of the Cuban revolution are evident, in the course of which cinema was used as a means of vanguard for political education. Translated into images, the messages of the revolution would reach the people who could not read or write. Simultaneously, the cinema consolidated a shared imaginary about the Cuban nation.

23To build a coherent idea of nation has always been one of the central concerns of revolutionary governments and movements. It is opportune to evoke the notion of imagined community as operationalized by Benedict Anderson when emphasizing the impact of culture on political ideology, advocates that nationalism can only be understood when aligned with the great cultural systems that preceded it (2006). Anderson's analysis, seeking to understand the origins of a national consciousness from a printed language, makes it understandable how cinema was a convenient instrument for the imagination of nations where most of the inhabitants were illiterate. According to Sana Na N’Hada, it:

[…] enable[d] Guineans to see themselves in a movie theater […]. Our perception was that Guineans did not know themselves: for instance, a Felupe from the North did not know a Nalu from the South […]. The “tribes” kind of met during the struggle, but interaction was lacking. (Personal interview, May 2015)

24The Instituto Nacional de Cinema (INC) was created in 1977 and has some support from Chris Marker for three months. It is worthy of mention that most images of Marker’s most famous film, Sans Soleil (1982), were shot in Guinea-Bissau. After returning to France, Marker sent Anita Fernandez, the post-production editor with whom he usually worked, to Guinea-Bissau. The goal was to train the four young filmmakers in editing techniques. In turn, Lennart Malmer was sent by the Swedish government—along with 16 mm Arriflex cameras, sound recorders, a Steinbeck guitar, lighting material and a 9 to 16 mm sound converter—to assist the INC in capacity-building.

  • 4 The Money available, approximately 85,000 Swedish Krona, was not enough to make the film. As such, (...)

25A great deal of material that had been filmed in between 1972 and 1976 was developed because of the Swedish government’s initiative. When Sana Na N’Hada went to Stockholm to see this material, he realized that there was some money left. This money was used later to finance the collective film O Regresso de Cabral (1976).4 This film documents the burial ceremonies in honor of Amílcar Cabral during the transporting of his body from the city of Conakry, where he was assassinated in January 1973, to Bissau.

26In this film, the symbolic investment to sacralize Amílcar Cabral is notorious. The idea of a charismatic leader who met the consensus of the population was essential for affirming and legitimizing the liberation struggle in the international context. The leader having been assassinated; it was necessary to perpetuate his influence. For this reason, several of his speeches are reproduced while his body is transported through the streets of Bissau, being honored in its most iconic places as the Presidential Palace.

27In spite of the support of some important foreign partners, the Guinean government continued to allocate extremely small budgets to the INC. Therefore, while during the struggle film production had been blocked by some military leaders and lack of means, after independence the difficulties stemmed from the absence of funding. In fact, cinema was not a priority for the government at that time. So, there was a contrast between the revolutionary avant-garde esthetics and the reality of the production and diffusion of cinematographic works in Guinea-Bissau.

28It is nevertheless disturbing that PAIGC itself would not promote the creation of imagery for its own propaganda. The filmmakers themselves pressed the State to create filmmaking structures, for they could only advance in pursuit of their personal aspirations within the framework created by the State.

29Finally, in 1979, a grant was given to finance the film project Guiné-Bissau, Seis Anos Depois (Guinea-Bissau, Six Years Later), which was a sort of reflection to take stock of what had been accomplished since independence. According to Sana Na N´Hada, the goal was to create an image archive to be used when television was established (personal interview, May 2015). Alas, this project was abruptly interrupted only four months after starting because of the 1980 coup d’état led by Nino Vieira. From then on, all films have been produced independently even though INC remained active, run by a director and a team of employees.

What does Guinea-Bissau’s militant cinema reveal and hide?

30It became ordinary to present cinema in Guinea-Bissau in a similar way that cinema was understood in other African nations fighting for self-determination, as stemming from the wish to use filmmaking for simultaneously documenting the war and educating the people about their own historical condition (Arenas 2015: 24). Albeit including Guinea-Bissau in the problematic category of “Lusophone Africa,” Mathia Diawara, for instance, suggests that films produced in countries that fought against the Portuguese colonial empire included interviews of the most charismatic leaders and were used to instruct the population about the meaning of the revolution, about education, and about the victories in the liberation front (1992: 89).

  • 5 This visit shattered the image of Portugal among the international community and greatly contribute (...)

31It is important to note that, a great deal of theorizing about the relationship between cinema and the birth of nations that fought against the Portuguese colonial empire was based in the cases of Angola and Mozambique. Despite the common enemy and the strategic coordination that joined the efforts of the various liberation movements in the diplomatic arena—which were apparent at the Conference of Nationalist Organizations of the Portuguese Colonies (Conferência das Organizações Nacionalistas das Colónias Portuguesas, or CONCP) and in the joint visit to Pope Paul VI by the three nationalist African leaders—there are a number of idiosyncrasies setting the three war contexts apart.5 Consequently, to analyze the histories of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau in light of the problematic label of Lusophony is to not only reproduce colonial patterns and borders but also to neglect what is singular and unique to each context and, above all, to lose sight of the dynamic of mutual influences between neighboring countries. In the particular case of Guinean cinema, for instance, little is discussed of the relationship with Senegal and of the relevance of references such as Ousmane Sembene and Paulin Soumanou Vieyra in Guinean filmmaking.

  • 6 The production company Castelo Lopes started to send films to Guinea-Bissau, free of license charge (...)
  • 7 Paulo Cunha is a Portuguese scholar who has been researching on colonial and post-colonial Bissau-G (...)

32All these generalizations may lead to incorrect conclusions. Throughout my research about Guinean cinema, I never found indications that cinema was exploited as an internal propaganda vehicle during or after the war. In fact, even after independence, there were never film-developing labs in Guinea-Bissau nor mobile cinema structures to bring films to the rural areas, as happened in Mozambique. According to Sana Na N’Hada, there were movie theaters in the country that screened films mostly imported from Portugal.6 Later, as a result of a partnership with the Soviet Union, those theatres started importing non-Western films. Even though Lennart Malmer and Tobias Engel did mention in interviews that their films were shown in Guinea-Bissau, I could not find records of such screening of films produced during the liberation struggle in the editions of the newspaper Nô Pintcha between 1975 and 1986, which I exhaustively analyzed with Paulo Cunha.7 We also did not find any reference to the screening of the film O Regresso de Cabral (1976), but many Guinean friends did guarantee that they watched the film countless times before the 1980 coup d’état. Then, Nino Vieira took power and forbid this film, arguing that it was an instrument of propaganda for the previous regime.

33This censorship, the lack government interest in cinema, and the resistance of many combatants to the presence of filmmakers during the struggle calls for a deep reflection concerning all barriers to film production in Guinea-Bissau.

34It is important to keep in mind that Cabral, believing that cultural resistance was the most effective form of resistance, built a strong case arguing that national liberation was simultaneously both a cultural fact and a cultural factor. The PAIGC leader defended that any nation has the right to its own history and considered culture as a key element in the history of a people (Cabral, 2011: 223). The central idea of this argument held that colonized people’s history should no longer be written by the colonizers, who until then established the historical narrative. However, to write (or to film) the history of the nation and of the liberation struggle as its founding myth, it is crucial to share and have a homogenous idea about them. As previously advocated, a coherent notion of nation has always been one of the central concerns of governments and revolutionary movements, and in the case of Guinea-Bissau, one of its greatest fragilities.

35The Republic of Guinea-Bissau would be, in the words of the liberation movement leader, Amílcar Cabral, an “African nation forged in the struggle” (1974) against Portuguese colonialism. Attributing the foundation of the nation state to the liberation struggle, the formation of the PAIGC is considered the most important event in the political history of Guinea-Bissau. Furthermore, considering the common colonial heritage and taking their artificial borders as an argument, the PAIGC assumed that national unity between the territories of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde would allow for a better understanding and analysis of the colonial system that was subjugating them, as well as for the elaboration of collective strategies of resistance to the Portuguese colonial rule.

36Guinea-Bissau as we know it would not exist if it had not undergone European colonization with all its consequences, African nationalism being rooted in a paradox, claiming independence while taking for granted the borders defined in the Treaty of Berlin, the founding act of colonialism. Also, the territory consists of so many different ethnic groups with their own languages, the answer to the question of whether there exists a nation today in Guinea-Bissau is ambiguous, and the only thing that can be said with certainty is that the national liberation movement brought the collective political will to build a nation (Lopes 1988: 64). It should be noted that during the liberation struggle the concept of “class-nation” was adopted, representing the union of all “classes” existing in Guinea and Cape Verde: the petty bourgeoisie, employees, and peasants of all ethnicities. Thus, colonial domination was the domination of a class (the Portuguese) upon a “nation” also considered as a “class” (Sousa 2008: 163). The PAIGC being a vanguard party, it became associated and combined with the nation-state under construction.

37However, the foundation of the Guinean nation was grounded in conflicting political dynamics that would reveal the internal divisions that have deepened since independence to the present day. Political instability demonstrates that the nationalist phenomenon was not enough to formulate a national project. And the lack of a national project means the coexistence of various models. Immediately after independence, there were arbitrary detentions, torture and summary executions against the enemies or the traitors of the nation. In 1980, the above-mentioned coup d’état, led to the split of the states of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. In June 1998, a violent civil war broke out, and since Guinea-Bissau has continued to be affected by several episodes of political violence.

38The history of cinema in Guinea-Bissau, like the history of the country, is thus full of buried narratives. Albeit seeking to activate the mechanisms to construct Guinea-Bissau as a nation-state, cinema also reveals its images-lacuna (Didi-Huberman 2012: 89). All these images-lacuna can be taken as absent, as conceptualized by Boaventura de Sousa Santos when he argued that reality cannot be reduced to what already exists, insisting on the need to claim a wider version of history, capable of including the realities that have been silenced and marginalized (2007: 253). Images that have never been produced can also give clues about history. Therefore, the absence of film production does not necessarily demonstrate the irrelevance of cinema in Guinea-Bissau but may manifest the existence of hidden social processes.


39This article benefitted from funding by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, both through my Ph.D. scholarship (PD/BD/52253/2013). I would like to thank Paulo Cunha with whom I had the privilege of discussing this work and Inês David who generously translated this article.


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1 The other films directed by foreign filmmakers are of European origin: Lala Quema (France, 1964) and A Nossa Terra (France, 1965) by Mario Marret; A Group of Terrorists Attacked… (United Kingdom, 1968) by John Sheppard; Labanta Negro! (Italy, 1966) by Piero Nelli; No Pincha! (France, 1970) by Tobias Engel, René Lefort and Gilbert Igel; Des fusils pour Banta (France, 1970) by Sarah Maldoror and En Nations Födelse (Sweden, 1973) by Lennart Malmer and Ingela Romare. Moved by the urgency to document, these filmmakers were ethically and politically compromised with the anticolonial struggle, and therefore filmed the liberation struggle in a dialogic project that the PAIGC implemented with the international community.

2 During the liberation struggle, Sara Moldoror also shot the film Des fusils pour Banta (1970). However, this film was confiscated by the Algerian authorities who had financed it, since they disagreed with the author's approach.

3 Some of the images of Actualidades were shown as part of the collective Project Luta Ca Caba Inda (2012) by Filipa César.

4 The Money available, approximately 85,000 Swedish Krona, was not enough to make the film. As such, the film was only finished with the logistic support of Lennart Malmer, who hosted Sana Na N’Hada during the 47 days that the post-production process lasted and, and who provided the viola for the audiovisual editing.

5 This visit shattered the image of Portugal among the international community and greatly contributed to the recognition of the right to self-determination of African peoples, which were then Portuguese colonies.

6 The production company Castelo Lopes started to send films to Guinea-Bissau, free of license charges, after independence.

7 Paulo Cunha is a Portuguese scholar who has been researching on colonial and post-colonial Bissau-Guinean cinema.

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